In his NY Times column, The Opinionator, Mark Bittman
recently wrote of a visit he took to California to scope out why
industrial canned tomatoes can taste better than even the
"heirloom" tomatoes he buys at the grocery store. His article, Not All
Industrial Food is Evil, starts out with no pretense that he
"So, fearing the worst - because we all "know" that
organic farming is "good" and industrial farming is "bad" - I
headed to the Sacramento Valley in California to see a big tomato
In the course of his reporting, he discovers, first of
all, that the tomatoes aren't half bad, "they had a
firm, pleasant texture and mild but real flavor, and were better
than any tomatoes - even so-called heirlooms - sold in my
And second, that the workers are not truly being abused:
"It's far from paradise, but it isn't hell either. The
basic question is this: Are the processes and products healthy,
fair, green and affordable? Workers in the
fields have shade, water and breaks; they're not being paid by the
piece. Workers in the plants are not getting rich but they're doing
better than they would working in the fields, or in a fast-food
Rominger is managing his fields conscientiously and,
by today's standards, progressively. He's also juggling an almost
unimaginable array of standards set by the state, by P.C.P. and
other processors, and even by his customers, who may say things
like, "What are you doing about nitrate runoff?"
This report has, as would be expected, aroused
considerable debate - from both sides. Over at Forbes,
they take a business-like approach,writing, "While it is nice
that the tomato farmers are rotating crops and the union laborers
are paid decently, it is inexcusable that
Bittman buried at the bottom of his article the fact that
farmers are not often paid a fair price for what they produce.
It is a problem endemic in agriculture
and, unbeknownst to readers like EricB, hits small farms
Then there are the extremists, "What kind of
utopian nonsense is this? Is this distant futuristic utopian vision
supposed to replace any practice of principle in the real world?
Wouldn't the realist prefer to buy his tomatoes locally from a
farmer he trusts (and pays enough) to put principles into practice
here and now? Surely only immigrants work all
the jobs described. Who here would want any of the jobs described
in the article for himself or any of his loved ones?
Either way, we're pleased that Bittman wrote the
article - open mindedness too often seems to be lacking on
both sides of the agricultural debate and, when it occurs, it
should be applauded.
On another topic, we thought we'd provide an update
on a previous blog we wrote on using social media to finance
cook-related projects. Niamh, who writes the popular U.K.
blog, Eat Like a Girl,
has been using Kickstarter to finance a bacon cookbook We've been
watching it with interest - she has two days left andremains shy of
her goal. We wish her the best of luck.